Sid Meier Railroads!

November 18, 2006 by  
Filed under PC, Reviews

Sid Meier’s Railroads! is a captivating railroad strategy sim, in which you strive to be a cutthroat railroad baron in the industrial age.

Before saying anything else about this game, an important note: This game draws a lot of inspiration from the Railroad Tycoon series, so if you are a Railroad Tycoon fan, you don’t really need to buy this game.

The gameplay in Railroads! is great, but is quite challenging. I felt that an easier learning curve would have been better. The tutorial lets you know the very basic aspects of the game, and leaves you completely in the dark about the advanced (and very important) aspects of the game. However, once you finally get to know quite a bit about the game, which will take about 4-5 hours more, the game is very entertaining and addictive, as I once spent a whole 8 hours, non-stop, playing it.

The title of Railroads! basically explains the whole point of the game. You start out as a fledgling company, with a station in a town, and it is your responsibility to expand it, and broaden it’s horizon, from just transporting passengers and mail, to transporting arms and ammunition and automobiles. For this, you have to build railroad tracks and stations, thus connecting different parts of the map.

As such, there is no campaign, just a number of different scenarios. This idea is a copy of the Railroad Tycoon series, and thus, the single player mode lacks cohesion. However, the scenarios themselves, are quite good, and have numerous objectives you have to complete in a certain period of time. Unfortunately, the locations of the scenarios are mostly centered in America, when there were a lot of railroad activities in other parts of the world, like in India, or Europe.

There is a large variety of trains to choose from, and new train engines are invented in the course of time. There is some depth in this aspect, as it is not always advisable to go for the latest train engine. You need to take into consideration it’s maintenance cost, hauling power, top speed, preferred cargo and lots more.

Train stations also have a level of depth to them, but nothing compared to the ones in the Railroad Tycoon series. You can convert your depot (basic entry-level station) to a station, and to a terminal. Doing so will cost you money, but the long-term benefits like increased revenue from passengers and mail, are present.

You can also buy mills, and factories, and transport them to cities, which demand their goods, for consumption or for processing. If you want to buy these businesses, there will be an auction in which you can bid for the starting price. Then your competitors can bid for a higher price and so forth.

The online play in the game is flawed, with a capital ‘F’. There are a number of graphical bugs and glitches, and I do hope that they can fix this, and fast. When I tested Railroads! online, the trains, in the game, were moving a step back, and then a step forward. It was first quite amusing to see this, but then just turned out to be purely frustrating. Otherwise too, the online play is no great shakes, as there are no objectives for the multiplayer scenarios, and so each game draws out, mostly, to about 2 to 3 hours. After that, either the other player leaves the game out of frustration of the animations, or concedes defeat so that he/she can play in the single player mode.If you leave the online play out of the picture, the gameplay in Railroads! is addictive and great.

The graphics in Railroads! are very good. If you zoom in, you can see all the minor details of the trains, stations, and the environment. For example if you have a cattle car in your train, you can see each set of cattle loaded into the car. The presentation style, too, is very nice. However, be warned, you need quite a high-end PC to run this game without lag. Sometimes you would feel that the graphics aren’t that good to be run on a high-end PC to function smoothly. But if you’ve got a hefty PC, expect the graphics to be very good.

The sounds in Railroads!, overall, is good. The noisy chugging of trains, the sound of the train whistles blowing, the shout of “All Aboard!” just before the trains leave, have been captured and recreated very well. The music is good. There are different soundtracks for different places, like when you scroll over a cattle farm, pastoral, country-like music is played, and when you scroll over Washington, the national anthem is played. However, there is no actual background soundtrack, and this left me a bit disappointed.

Sid Meier’s Railroads! is a fun and different game, but it feels as if 2K Games have developed this game just to test the railroad sim waters. This game had the potential to be an excellent game, but nonetheless, it is a great option for those who like basic and fun strategy games.

Saints Row

November 14, 2006 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

Saints Row, like the GTA series, is the very definition of a cool game. In this game, you play a gangster whose life has been saved by a gang called the 3rd Street Saints. Then the game pretty much unfolds in the order you like. It’s quite a long game, and from how much I’ve played it, I can say that it is much more fun than playing any GTA(Grand Theft Auto) game.
For those ignorant people who don’t know about this type of game (What? You guys have been living in Mars all this time?), it is RPG/action/all-in-all fun game. You can hijack cars, kill people on the streets, evade police, and, of course, finish the missions.

Although the game’s graphics aren’t very spectacular, the explosions, fire and water effects are very well done. The main storyline is very good, although you can do a lot of side-missions. You can form gangs, take over neighborhoods, buy a variety of firearms, and thus develop your respect.

There are a huge number of guns to choose from, varying from pistols to rocket launchers. You can also modify your car, with nitrous or hydraulics. This is what makes it an all-in-all fun game. To unlock more missions, you must earn respect. The main source of gaining respect is by playing side missions, such as creating an insurance fraud, rescuing “hos” (sure you all know what that means!) from their pimps, and hijacking cars. These side missions also give you a lot of money, with which you can buy cribs (houses), and buy your character some clothes, and make your character look however you like.

One more aspect about this game is that once you complete a certain mission, you get more than a cash reward. You get a crib as a reward, or you can take over the neighborhood, thus earning money, which is stored in your crib. You can take this cash whenever you want.

The camera is third person, almost exactly like GTA, and the shadows are well done. Many of the cars resemble their real-life counterparts well, and this adds to the realism of the game.

Once you get to a certain level in terms of the respect you’ve gained, you get more homies in your gang. Also, sometimes a certain person you’ve helped will offer assistance to you, and you can contact him on your cell phone. You also get a Wheel Woman, who is basically a woman chauffer. She is very useful, especially in cases when you want to do a drive-by. You can order her to take a turn by using the Left Stick. This feature is very cool.

There is another feature called Gang Notoriety, and the more people you kill in a rival neighborhood, the higher your Gang Notoriety goes up, and the more number of rival gang members are after your blood.

The voice-acting is great, and the overall sound is very good, especially the rap songs selected.

The game doesn’t suffer from any lag problems, but has a small loading time problem.

Overall, this game is tight, dawg!

A word of advice: If you get frustrated after losing a mission, beat up the pedestrians. It relaxes you in a second.

 

NBA Live 2007

November 11, 2006 by  
Filed under PC, Reviews

The game starts in the same old fashion, with a cinematic showing all the same old features like the dunks, the steals, Kobe Bryant dunking, Ben Wallace dunking, Shaquille O’Neal dunking…Even though this cinematic was supposed to impress us, I, for one, was far from impressed. Why? Because there was nothing new and different shown from NBA Live 06! Anyway, that was just the beginning. Who knows, it might just be a very good game! Read on to find out.

The player rosters are accurate and there are no mistakes regarding the players in their correct teams. The game was played in the maximum settings, and so I was hoping for a treat for the eyes. Sadly, there was none whatsoever. The graphics are bad. The sad part is the graphics of NBA Live 06 were better than these graphics! The player’s bodies are all right, but their movements are awful to watch. How would you feel if your favorite forward, ran in slow-motion to the hoop, when your point guard had the ball? That’s not all. The block animations, steal animations and normal pass (Not the superstar passes, like fake passes etc.) are all the same, which weren’t great in the first place! The animations were great for NBA Live 05, but if the animations are same for two continuing years, it gets very disappointing.

The gameplay has had a few tweaks done to it, but it’s still got the core gameplay of all the games in the NBA Live series. In this time, the free throws have to be made by the normal shooting key. It’s basically like a normal shot. It’s a good feature, but it can be quite hard to shoot a free throw correctly. For this, there is an option to simulate the free throws, and the number of correct free throws depends on the player’s free throw skill. There are now star and superstar players, which is a minor tweak to the game. Also, there are defensive star moves, but this is just an unnecessary feature, which one doesn’t need to use in order to win the game. Another feature is something called the X-Factor. In this, if you use a player, who’s X-Factor has been locked long enough, he will change into a star/superstar player on a temporary basis. As such, you can feel that the EA Sports have tried to increase the sense of reality in the game, as now it is harder to block or steal properly, mostly you end up putting pressure on the offensive player, when he takes a shot or dunks.

The commentary is good throughout the game. It’s fun to hear a player’s short history, when he goes to shoot a free throw. The court sounds, and dunk/lay-up sounds are good, but they are nothing spectacular. The crowd sounds are exactly the same as of last year. The controls are satisfactory, but it is very clear that NBA Live 07 was clearly made for consoles.

The controls specified in the manual and in the in-game tutorial, are for the Playstation 2. For example: We have to move the “Right Analog Stick” up and down to make a free throw, we have to move the “Right Analog Stick” in a quarter circle, for the players to make superstar moves. The All-Star Weekend, a highlight of yesteryear’s games like NBA Live 05 and NBA Live 06, also continues into NBA Live 07. The 3-Point shootout, and East vs. West games are good, but they are nothing spectacular. The Slam Dunk Contest, the most fun part of the game, is also quite disappointing. The controls for this part have again been made for the Playstation 2 and other consoles, as there is no option for an Alley-Oop, or a 360 degrees-or-higher type of dunk.

In the end, you should buy this if you are an ardent fan of the NBA Live Series. If you are a fan of the game, don’t buy this, buy a console, and play NBA 2K7 instead!

Halo 3 tit-bits

October 31, 2006 by  
Filed under News, Xbox 360

Details of the much-anticipated game on the XBOX 360:- Halo 3, were released by a Swedish magazine ‘LEVEL’.The new game will feature tons of new vehicles, weapons, and new features, which are given in some detail below.

In the multiplayer mode, the game will, unfortunately, not have any bots. Although this will be fine for most of the gamers, it will disappoint the few gamers who have tired out of the normal multiplayer mode, and are currently fine playing with bots.

Some of the new weapons which will be present in Halo 3 are:

1. Spartan Laser: This cool new weapon is meant for destroying enemy vehicles. There wasn’t much else reported, but expect those vehicles to GET PWNED!

2.  Nail Grenade: Well…the name is self-explanatory…

3. Brute Spiker: No news about it yet, but at least it sounds pretty mean.

The Mongoose ATV vehicle, which seats two, is the new entrant in the vehicles category. It lacks firepower, but is a quick way to get some Spartans the hell out of enemy territory!

Also reported in LEVEL, was a very unique feature. It can be called a vehicle, or it can be called

as a weapon. It is something called the “Human Cannon”. This will launch players across the map, unprotected, through the sky. This means that they are vulnerable to enemy fire, but they too can fire back.

The controls have also been changed. For starters, the X button will no longer reload. Instead, players will have to use the left and right bumpers on the XBOX 360 controller to reload the primary and secondary weapon, respectively. There is no news about what the X button will now do.

One of the graphics tweaks is that the players’ secondary weapons will now be visibly slung over their backs, all the time.

The limited-edition release of Halo 3 will be called the “Legendary Edition”. It will come in a replica of the Master Chief’s helmet, which is pretty sweet.

It will have the documentaries of Halo 3, Red vs. Blue content, the game (obviously) and other goodies.

NBA 2K7

September 27, 2006 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

NBA 2K7 has a whole lot of gameplay modes. There’s the Season mode which is an emulation of a basketball season, The Association, which puts you in the shoes of the General Manager of the basketball team you choose, Street mode which is semi-street basketball, which isn’t needed at all (make Street 2K7 instead of that 2K Sports!), Situation mode, which puts you in the situation you like, in a game, and Practice mode where you can do normal practice, or practice free throws, and the Exhibition mode.

Let’s start with the Street mode. Its story is appalling. You meet Shaquille O’Neal (one of the biggest NBA stars, if you didn’t know) shooting free throws in your run-down basketball court, where, incidentally, you and your friends are playing too. Your friend sees Shaq, and actually challenges him to play ball with you! Shaq agrees to play with you only if you beat him in shooting free throws. Now, there’s a script for your next movie Steven Spielberg! Anyways, most of you who will be buying this wouldn’t probably be playing this, as this is a basketball simulation.

The Season mode is deep and runs the entire basketball season. Although there is nothing new to this, it still is a fun gameplay mode. More impressive is the Association, where you’re the General Manager of a basketball team. It is very deep, and you have a lot of duties to perform, other than playing the matches. You can scout for new talents, you can participate in the annual NBA draft, and you can schedule practices for your team, and you have to maintain and improve your team’s chemistry. This is one of the main gameplay modes, and it is a lot of fun to play. Situation mode is more for the veterans of the game, who just want to get into a match already in progress, and try to beat the opposing team.

The actual, professional game plays great. Unlike NBA Live 07, where you can block every shot, or steal the ball almost every time you try to, this game plays like the real sport. Your offense and defense will be largely affected by which team you are playing with. For example, you can’t expect to get many fast break points with the San Antonio Spurs, and don’t expect too many points to come from beyond the arc with Miami Heat. Also, utilizing each player’s skills is necessary to win a ball game in NBA 2K7.

So, though NBA 2K7 has got its basics right, and its foundation solid, it has a lot of small, nagging glitches and problems which, unfortunately, hinder the most exciting parts of the game. Fast breaks can be frustratingly cut off, just because one of your players stopped to pick up a pass, and that allowed the defense to come back. No player stops during fast break, as that ruins its whole purpose! Also, some of the A.I passes are too predictable, and the ball can be easily stolen. None of your blocks connect with the ball, and these result in a lot of fouls, although you can tune this with the gameplay sliders.

Free throws take a lot of practice to get right, and still the result is unpredictable, as the game is unforgiving with your timing. So, even if you mistimed your free throw by a split-second (and your player is not a great free throw shooter), odds are the ball is going to bounce off the rim. Don’t expect the scores in NBA 2K7 to be high, though. This is mostly due to the sudden change in the A.I during fast breaks. Everyone in the opposing team suddenly seems to be an Allen Iverson, stealing almost every pass you make during a fast break. Also, dunks are missed quite a lot (is that even possible?), and wide-open 3 pointers disappointingly bounce of the rim.

Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis

May 24, 2006 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

Rockstar presents Table Tennis is an intense one-on-one game of Ping Pong. Don’t be fooled by the idea “Who can’t play Pong? Pong’s easy as hell!” as Table Tennis is more complex than even the latest Tennis games like Top Spin 2. Add that with super-fast gameplay, and you’ve got a winning combination.

One point must be clear to you, though. RPTT offers very little variety in its gameplay. There are no doubles, which could have been the most fun aspect of the game, had it been developed, and no career mode. Also, the number of players is quite less, although all of the present characters are very diverse and have their own specialties.

The controls in RPTT is easy to learn, but quite difficult to master, just like the real game. There are 4 basic types of spins in the game: Topspin when you press the A button, backspin when you press the Y button, rightspin and leftspin, when you press the B button and X button respectively. You can also move the Right Stick down, up, right or left, but this is much more difficult. Apart from this you can combine two types of spins, like a topspin and a rightspin, for a rightspin that moves fast, like a topspin. This requires you to press two buttons at a time, and is recommended only for the more advanced players of the game. There are also soft shots, or drop shots, which place the ball close to the net. These are really useful when your opponent moves back, or is far away from the table. You can also charge up your spin shots for more spin, but holding them for too long will result in a slow, ordinary shot, which is easy to return. Thus timing is everything in Table Tennis.

The Left Stick is used to move your player and once you have got him/her into position, you can charge up your spin, and then move the Left Stick anywhere to place the ball. But the intuitive part of the controls in RPTT is the force feedback control. As you place the ball to any side of the table, the controller will vibrate a bit. If you are trying to place it too much, and there is a risk that the ball might go out, the controller will vibrate a lot, and you should immediately try and move the Left Stick to the other direction. This is the first time it has been implemented in a sports game, and should be used for tennis titles too. Reality is a must in games nowadays, (hear that Tony Hawk?) and I love the reality of RPTT. It might be easy to learn, but difficult to master, since it is a fast-paced game.

But the place where this game stands out, is the extremely fun multiplayer mode. The camera is positioned just perfect, and the game isn’t time-consuming, fast and overall, very exciting. There isn’t anything better, for me to defeat my brother 11-0, using Jesper. A major thing lacking, though, is Doubles. I know you’re shocked, as it is absurd not to have doubles, when singles itself is fun to play.
P.S. the game is a tad unbalanced, as Jesper can beat anybody, very easily.

The graphics help the game in a huge way. The sweat effects are cool, and you can see the shirt clinging to the body of your player. The players animations are done very well, and each player’s animations are different from each other, due to their contrasting styles. For example Kumi, a defensive player, uses small, quick strokes. Jesper, the aggressive German player, on the other hand, uses huge strokes that sweep across the table. The player’s emotions are also shown well. However, it couldn’t have hurt if Rockstar made the environment better, as you can’t see beyond the barricade. So no spectators, no stands. In a way, it’s a good thing, as you wouldn’t be able to focus on the ball so easily.

The audio in RPTT is good. The background music is cheesy and doesn’t help the game. However, the player’s sounds, and the smack of the ball hitting the sweet spot of the paddle, are great. The crowd sounds are nice, but are nothing really great.

You don’t need to know Pong to play table-tennis, it’s accessible, exciting and fast-paced. Except for the fact that it doesn’t have doubles, it is a great game

2006 Fifa World Cup

April 15, 2006 by  
Filed under PC, Reviews

2006 FIFA World Cup is a football game from EA Sports, which recreates the football World Cup, and does it very well. Football fans will be thrilled with this game’s gorgeous graphics, excellent sound, and the overall festival-like atmosphere it creates.

The main objective while playing 2006 FIFA World Cup is, obviously, to win the World Cup with the team or teams you have selected.

There are otherwise many types of matches in the game including penalty shootouts, exhibition matches, practice sessions, online play, and global challenges.

If you want to start playing the World Cup right off, the game gives you the option of starting from scratch i.e. the Qualifiers, in which the match fixtures are the same as the ones in the real World Cup, but can be modified to your likes, or you can skip the Qualifiers and start as any team in the finals. You can choose one of the 32 teams that qualified for the finals in Germany, or you can choose to play as one of the 125 teams all around the world.

2006 FIFA World Cup , like its predecessors, is more of an arcade-style game, with less depth

in gameplay than rival Pro Evolution Soccer has. It is quite basic, and is a pick-up-and-play game. There is very little need for training, except for fine-tuning your Free Kicks, and Corners. Don’t be surprised when you score 2 goals on your very first match, in normal difficulty. This is largely because the goalkeepers in the game are very easy to bypass, and is one of the few complaints players of the game will have. However, it is very satisfying to see your striker kick the ball to the top-right corner of the goal, from outside the penalty area. At the same time, when your goalkeeper fails to block a shot, and thus ends up giving up a goal, you will be definitely saying “WHAT! MY GRANNY COULD’VE STOPPED THAT!” After playing the game for sometime, you will begin to feel that this is more of an offensive-styled game, with less concentration needed for defense. There is a variety of formations to choose from, in 2006 FIFA World Cup™, so you are most likely to find more than formation suited for you. But mostly, by using a combination of lobs, crosses, through-balls and man-to-man offense, will you be able to win against tougher teams like England or France.

One unique element in this game is the Global Challenge mode. In this, you can play special, important matches which left a mark in the history of football, and try to complete the objectives presented to you.

There are a number of matches you can choose from, however, one flaw in this is that the players in your team and your opponent’s team are the ones playing now. It is quite disappointing to see Rooney as the England team striker, in a match way back in the ‘70’s.

The online play in 2006 FIFA World Cup™ isn’t great, to say the very least. It suffers from a lot of lag problems, and there aren’t many players in the Middle East playing this game, so if you want to play online, you have to play with people far away, which is one of the reasons for the lag. One more thing you would notice is the lobby system, which is old and has been used for a long time. An upgrade would have been nice, but sadly this has not been done. Many of you would find errors occurring while establishing a connection, which is extremely frustrating.

The controls used in 2006 FIFA World Cup™ are the same like FIFA 06, and can be modified completely to your likes.

The graphics in the game are the best you can find in any football game now. The players look very realistic, and the player animations are top-class. However, the game does lag a bit from time to time, and suffers from a few framerate problems. 2006 FIFA World Cup™ gains the upper edge in graphics, when compared to Pro Evolution Soccer.  The crowds and the stadiums look good. Lagging does occur in the game, though this is very inconsistent, and usually occurs when there are a lot of players on the screen at the same time.

The presentation throughout the game is simply superb. The menus are very well done, and

are more eye-catching than the ones in FIFA 06. It is very easy to navigate through the game, as the menus are very user-friendly. Before your matches in the World Cup mode, a table containing the fixtures of matches to be played, results of previous matches, and what the coaches had to say about that, is displayed. This is very useful, and also well presented. But the pre-match presentation is what will amaze you. The globe of the earth is first shown, and then the camera zooms into Germany, to the stadium in which your team is going to play. Then you will be greeted by the player line-up, with a shower of confetti, and the stadium booming with noise of collected cheering of the spectators.

All said and done, there is nothing better to see in sports games, other than 2006 FIFA World Cup running on high resolution with maxed out video settings.

However, the graphics in this game are great, only when compared to other sports games. Otherwise, you can say that these graphics are very good, but they do not stand out as one of the best aspects of the game.

The sound in 2006 FIFA World Cup is fantastic. The music tracks are catchy, and help in creating the festival-like atmosphere which is characteristic of football games. The crowds in the stadium sound great, and their booing and cheering adds a lot of fun to the match. But the star of the show is the commentary of the game. With anecdotes, and their clever remarks, the commentators have, once again, proved that they are just as entertaining as the previous FIFA games they have commented for.

All in all, 2006 FIFA World Cup is great game, and EA has done a commendable effort in developing it (well, except for the online play.)

Top Spin 2

April 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

Top Spin 2 is a tennis game from Indie Bull developments. While this isn’t a smashing hit (excuse the pun), it manages to do a good job of emulating a once rich man’s sport, tennis.

There are 3 types of shots you can choose from while playing Top Spin 2, they are- the soft shot or the safe shot, which will not go out of bounds, nor will it hit the net, but you can’t aim very well with it, the top spin- the main shot you will be playing. It’s fast and you can aim quite well with it, however there is a risk of the ball hitting the net, or going out, the lob- which is a high shot, and though is very useful in real life, it is quite worthless here, and the slice shot, which is a slow, cut shot which spins and turns a lot. It’s great for slowing the pace of the game.

There are 3 types of gameplay modes in Top Spin 2- the Exhibition mode, Career mode, and Party Play. While the Exhibition mode is nothing new, the career mode is an in-depth, from-rags-to-riches-in-tennis type of gameplay. It has more than 4 seasons for you to go through. It is good, but has a lot of untapped potential. It does get quite repetitive after sometime, and is quite boring, if you are playing on Easy difficulty. This is mainly because of the weak A.I. Every player, from #200 to #1, has got 2 styles of gameplay: Serve and volley, or baseline attack. They don’t even mix up the two a bit. If you play about 10 matches in career play, odds are that you won’t lose any match for a long time. Even the top ten players use the same tactics, the only difference is that they are faster, and use risk shots more. There are a few special matches that you can play in career mode, like playing against your rival (he hates you, because you won against him, and won’t change his view that you are worse than him, even once you are #1!) in a million-dollar bet.

These games are nice to play, but all in all they are no different from the standard games you play on a pro level. Also, the dates of these special events have to coincide with something much more important, like the Grand Slam, or the Masters finals. You do earn “coin” for every tournament you win, but you win a LOT, and there isn’t much use for it. The maximum you can do with it is buy new attire, racquets, get a new hairstyle, or hire a new coach. Speaking of coaches, you can train your player, and that aspect is really quite deep. There are about 63 career stars you can earn by training under your coach. Training is done in the form of tests, and if you beat those tests, you will get more career stars. These career stars increase your abilities. The training exercises are hard, but a lot of fun to play, and believe me, they will make you a better player in Top Spin 2. There are 3 types of career stars you can get- Bronze stars which you get from training, silver stars which you get from winning regional tournaments, and gold stars which you get for winning the Masters or the Grand Slam.

Party Play is the last type of gameplay mode, and it is self-explanatory. You play weird tennis games that look as if they were stolen out of a Wario game, they’re that goofy. However, they are all quite fun to play, and they do hone your tennis skills.

Graphics-wise, Top Spin 2 looks great. It has some of the best graphics for sports games, though it does not take full advantage of the Xbox 360’s hardware. The colors look a bit washed-out and there are only 2 camera modes which are not too great either. However, the character models are extremely detailed and the player animations look very realistic.  The courts look very good, and the particle effects raised when your player skids around a clay court, look great.

The game has neither a good soundtrack, nor does it have many. The cheesy background music of some unknown singer singing “Yeahhhh” makes you laugh, it’s sung so bad. Thankfully, there is no background music when you are playing. On the other hand, the player’s grunts sound very realistic, and so does the sound of the ball hitting the racquet. In fact, you can make out which type of shot the opponent has played, by just listening to the sound. The crowd sounds are almost non-existent, except when you won the match, when they awake from their slumber.

All-in-all, Top Spin 2 is a fun, accessible game, with a great multiplayer mode, and deep career play.

The Outfit

March 21, 2006 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

The Outfit is an arcade WWII action/strategy game from THQ. Sad to say, this game does poorly in all aspects of a shooter and a strategy game and should not be played unless your very life depends on it (Then too, give it a second thought.).

The game has a broken, no-brainer storyline, where you are in charge of 3 ‘heroes’ and follow their ‘heroic’ pursuits in driving out the evil Nazis. Taking inspiration from the storyline, the gameplay too, has no depth, and you have nothing else to do than kill all Nazis.

However, the game does have a few good aspects, like the Destruction on Demand option. Whenever you kill someone, or destroy a tank or a building, you earn Field Units (FU’s). Once you have enough, you can call for reinforcements, or ask for an Anti-Tank gun and it will parachute down in a crate, for you to wipe out enemy tanks. Once you capture enemy Armories or Motor Pools (by standing next to them) you can get access to better weapons and better vehicles respectively. This is especially fun in the Multiplayer mode, but this definitely does not redeem the game of its various shortcomings.

It’s sad to see a game which cannot get its basics right, even after millions of action/shooter games have been churned out. Honestly, there is no excuse if a shooter’s controls are clumsy. The targeting reticule takes too much time to respond and moves slowly. Even if The Outfit is an arcade shooter, a touch of reality would be better for the game. It’s stupid when a Nazi dies after taking shots continuously on his head for 2 seconds with a submachine gun. It’s even more stupid to see that a Nazi gets up after you shoot directly at him from a tank, but dies from two shots with a rifle.

Also, every mission’s objective is the same- Kill all Nazis you can find. You don’t have any other thing to do, except blow up anything that is used by Nazis. You can use tanks and halftracks, and in one case trains, to do so but these don’t provide any fun at all, due to their clunky controls. Also, the enemy A.I is unpredictable- not in the fun way, but in the frustrating way. Some Nazi soldiers stand right in front of you, readied with their weapons but not shooting, while some duck under barriers and shoot realistically. The smart A.I makes the dumb A.I stand out more, so that ruins the gameplay experience too.

There are 3 heroes, and you can play as any one of them. They are Deuce Williams, who is a one man tank-crusher. He’s got a bazooka, a heavy bazooka, and an anti-tank rifle. Then there is Thomas Macintyre who is an anti-infantry guy. He’s got a ‘Grease gun’ (tommy gun), a sub-machine gun and a light machine gun, and John Davis, who is a sniper, so he’s got a light rifle, a sniper rifle, and a, well, rifle. Obviously, it would fell absurd to kill enemy infantry all the time with a bazooka, but the game has an unlimited supply of ammo, so you can blast people off at your own leisure.

The multiplayer aspect of the game, however is quite fun. Using destruction on demand is a great way to off other players, and they will definitely not be as dumb as the A.I. So the multiplayer is the one aspect where The Outfit shines.

The game’s graphics are below average. The environment looks low-res, and so does the enemy A.I. Only the vehicles, and the game’s main characters look O.K. Explosions look good, but can’t be compared to the explosions in the Call of Duty series. The i-game physics look bad. I mean, blasting a Nazi soldier from almost point-blank range, with your tank SHOULD send him lying, or blast him into pieces (how cruel of me!). But he just drops down dead, the same way if you shot him. Ironically, this game uses the same engine (Havok engine) as in Saints Row. However, Saints Row looks so much better than this.

In the audio aspect, The Outfit, is better than the graphics department, but that still doesn’t count for much. There are a few parts, where the surround sound really kicks in, and it does feel like a real WWII shooter, but elsewhere, the sound is just average. There is a lot of rock music in the background, but that unfortunately, does not give the right feel for the game. The guns sound quite nice, but all in all they’re nothing spectacular.

All in all, The Outfit is not recommended, as there are tons of better shooters in the market nowadays.

Burnout Revenge

March 10, 2006 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

Burnout is a long series of racing games that you should know about, unless you have been living under a rock all this time. The game is simple; you try to win the race by any means possible. That includes, preferably, crashing other cars, using all sorts of shortcuts, breaking anything breakable in your path, and use the most ridiculous amount of nitrous anyone can see.

The game has an unbelievable bevy of beautiful and fast cars, and some crappy looking ones too. It also features gorgeous looking environments in exotic locations. Also, there isn’t anything much better than to knock off all the tables and chairs from a roadside café!

The game has a lot of gameplay modes. There’s the standard (or not-so-standard, whatever) race, where you can do whatever you want to win. This is the cornerstone mode of every Burnout game, but there are a few little tweaks that add a layer of depth to it, like hitting civilian vehicles moving in your direction, to make them block your opponent’s path, or hopefully making them crash into the helpless vehicle. However, the game still stays true to the good ol’ Burnout tradition- your main weapon, is you, and it’s mostly up to you to eliminate the opposition. (Wow, I sound like a gangster!)

Anyway, there is the relatively new Crash mode, where you have to drive a crap vehicle straight into the traffic, cause mayhem, earn points for that, and THEN ONE of the time bombs in your car detonates (called a crashbreaker), causing more mayhem. Depending on the number of vehicles you destroyed, the crowd will chant for another crashbreaker, and you seem to get another time bomb out of nowhere, and that too will detonate, causing so much mayhem  (terrorists, you’ve got your Suicide Mission 101 right here.)

Then, there’s the time trial mode. Well, this is pretty self-explanatory. You race against the clock, with no opponents involved, and your only obstacles are the environment and the traffic.

Depending on how well you do, you get a Bronze, Silver or Gold Award, and that translates to how many stars you get, which level you up, giving access to different locations and cars. You have many ranks to progress through, to get to the final, the World Championship.

One of the main things lacking from Burnout is a story. While it’s good not to have a story in some ways, it’s mostly not a great idea to not have any story, or characters. Maybe Criterion Games didn’t want to mess up the experience by offering some weird-ass story like Namco’s Dead or Alive games, but even a mediocre story could go a long way in the game’s value. For instance, the street NFS games are worn down, so the story, and the actors help the game in a huge way, and that’s one of the main reasons of the popularity of the game.

Another thing lacking in Burnout Revenge are the lack of variety in the tracks. The race courses look a lot different, but usually feel very similar. There are no sudden turns, so the tracks are usually very easy to play.

The car physics are unreal, in a crazy good way. Turning is simple, simpler than even NFS games. But the main fun comes when your opponent’s car goes flying into oblivion as you made him crash. The car will spin around, like a billion times, and car pieces fly everywhere. Seeing this is so much fun, and you will definitely be shouting “I OWN JOO! I OWN JOO!”

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